tv Watergate the Rise of Partisanship CSPAN January 6, 2018 9:28pm-10:14pm EST
course, mostly within 20th-century u.s. history and african-american studies. >> announcer: next, we continue with our coverage of this in washington,ng d.c.. you're watching american history tv on c-span3. authorant to welcome the of a new book that is out on watergate. first, the premise of the book? thek class of 1974. john: it is difficult to write a book about congress because it is a very large institution.
people don't really understand the nature of the body and how it functions and how it addresses and how it is organized. this class came in immediately after watergate scandal. it had a lot of people who came out of traditional politics and out of environmental or feminist politics. they joined with a group of very frustrated reformers who had been unable to democratize and .iberty dies -- liberal was thecratic caucus majority and they were able to effectuate changes that made significant reforms in the operations of the house. it gave greater ability to younger members and more liberal members to raise issues that had
been prevented from coming to the debate. there were greater opportunities to have legislation and amendments considered. houseng so, they made the a more democratic and open institution. the book also looks at the fact that these changes were dramatic changes in politics and american society. some of the reforms that were implemented initially also became very opportunistically used by minorities to bring forth issues that had been prevented from raising. some issues were contentious and divisive, and the interplay between the younger more progressive factions and increasing conservative rising republican majority really were what we see as bipartisanship.
>> if you look at gerald ford, a member of the house representing grand rapids, michigan, he came to power as a republican role himself. did he have a unique appreciation for what democrats in the house were doing in 1975 and 1976 during when he was president? >> not really. he was resentful of the fact that he sought reformers as being disrespectful to the institution. many of the democratic leaders saw them that way as well. like the republican reformers and they beganer to emerge in the late 1970's, the democrats view their own party as part of the problem and they institutionalized power to conglomerate in the hands of southern, very conservative members who were impossible to dislodge and who prevented a lot of legislation from taking
place. evennk president ford, though he had spent decades in the house of representatives and in the minority, of course, he viewed the institution very referentially. he looked at some of the changes that were forced upon the institution by the reformers in a very negative way. he was quite outspoken by the fact that he felt the institution was under assault from the class of 74 and their allies. >> based on that come any parallels to the tea party movement with the house conservative caucus today? importante is an distinction. not all rebellious members are the same. one of the differences is -- and this was misunderstood, the class of 1974 did not view the house itself in a negative fashion. it did not view the institution or even politics in a negative
fashion. many of the numbers had come up through the political system as others in the house had. they viewed the reforms they were instituting as a way of democratizing and allowing the house to function in a more efficient and representative manner. i would argue that what you see today with the freedoms caucus and people before them in 2010 and 2000 12, is a feeling that the government and congress is in part the enemy. it is a question of a question of scaling down and minimizing legislative activities of congress, not modernizing it so that it can address contemporary issues. there were significant offenses. >> was water gates a partisan or an't -- was watergate
partisan or constitutional battle? john: it was from a movement that was rising in the late 1960's in response to what historians are calling a historical presidency. it was part of congress to reinsert itself for a number of reasons. the presidency had accumulated far greater power certainly than the founders ever intended and nimbly and use media and executive orders in response to national crises, whether that was right domestically or international security issues in usurpedat really what the congress should have been doing. late 1960's and accelerating in the early 1970's was theartisan basis
congress reasserted itself. when watergate came along, initially there was an institutional defense of president nixon and many of the republican members of the judiciary committee and others stood with the president for a long time and maybe some parallels to what we see happening here. until the steady above information and internal documents and tapes made the situation untenable, many of and in a sense it was too late. >> we are talking with author and historian john lawrence. he is also an adjunct member of d.c.. 202 is the nation' area code. 202 is the nation's202-704, 80 n
>> the media changes have played a significant role in this rise of partisanship and polarization . he usesatrick moynihan, a you are entitled to your opinion but not to your own facts. your, you are entitled to own facts, not simply a false fax, but because of the emergence of cable and lower costs of entry for people to secure access to television because of talk radio, and particularly because of social internet, now have the ability to reinforce their own beliefs as opposed to be challenged. the newsmakers don't have to make their way to the news filters. walter cronkite did not just
read, he had to pass a pretty thorough credibility test to make it onto the evening news. when i was a kid, you listened to one of the three evening news. that was about it. today, you don't have that. you have an ideological breakdown which is affecting our political system and society in general. it is reflected in the media and in the press and has the tendency to be enforced. things peoplel have. the difference in the 1960's and 1970's was that the press was much more limited and they viewed themselves as a more neutral party and investigative party in the public discussion. they were not there to defend or to reinforce or a specifically to attack one group or another.
in the case of watergate, it was the very neutrality of the press which had such enormous impact. i remember when walter cronkite in the late 1960's determined that the war in vietnam was a horrible mistake and criticized president johnson's's president johnson's proclamation. i don't think you can say anybody in the media has that authority now. >> why did you write the book and what one thing surprised you when researching it? the reason that i wrote came to d.c.i initially in 1975. i worked on the hill. i was disturbed by the two -- the degree when i
changed to academics that the almost cartoonish way this class was characterized. -- theit was generally viewed a group of rambunctious people who had no respect for the institution who showed up. an informal history of the house of representatives as written by , therenguished historian were many hundreds of pages of history and congress devoted one paragraph to this class. it almost was dismissed in that way. what surprised me as i did the book and interviewed over 40 was thein both parties diversity of the class. number one, there was also a strong sense that they had come to washington to accomplish something and specifically to end the war in vietnam. so than to more
reform congress. the irony is that even though they were known as congressional reformers, when i asked them, did you come outraged by the seniority system, by the lack of ability to raise issues, by secrecy and lack of transparency, and everyone said no. they said they came to end the war in vietnam. >> are any still in congress today. john: the only one who is still there is chuck grassley. he came as a house member in 1975, and transitioned to the senate. member from house minnesota was elected in 1975 who retired a few years later. he came back after the longest hiatus in congressional history to regain his seat and i think it was 2012 here he was gone for 32 years, and he is still there. who is a senator from
massachusetts was elected in 1976 in a special election he does not really count as a class that was elected in 1974 in what i am talking about. >> historian john lawrence. our first color is kim joining us from fairfield, ohio. good afternoon. kim: thank you for taking my call period i am curious that now we have seen the congressional checks and balances in the executive branch relying on nonpartisan action, do you think the laws need to be changed in order to prevent this happening in the future? >> thinks, kim. john: -- thanks, kim. john: congress is not conducting adequate oversight and not investigating president trump, and that is troubling.
yes, to some extent that is true. i do think that if you look at the history of congressional oversight, which is one of the reforms that emerged out of the erargate and the vietnam and blossomed following the election of the class of 1974. most committees were required to create oversight subcommittees. oversight tends to have a partisan ring to it. when democrats took control of congress in 2006, congress ran oversight of president bush for the war in iraq and so security and handling of the economy. when president obama was elected by democratic congress, they diminished significantly its level of oversight. that has been the case when the republicans gain control, they are very aggressive in oversight
. now president trump was collected and they have diminished it. i think one of the contrasts between the period i am writing about in the current period, is those that remember the watergate hearings will remember that some of the most devastating questions were asked , the keyicans questions what did he know and when did he know it was asked by howard baker, a republican senator from tennessee. at some point, those crises rise .o a bipartisan level evidently, we are not at that level right now. of course, the majority makes the determinations about what hearings are held. >> the field essentially was well set when richard nixon resigned in august 1974. there were a handful of september primaries. for the most part, the
candidates who announced 21 did so because -- announced, did so because of the watergate investigation and vietnam. john: i ask if watergate was the major factor and most said, no. a lot of those decisions to run 1973 and in december january 1974. watergate was still an evolving issue at that point. we tend to think of tapes and , and incourt decisions terms of motivating people to run, watergate did not come up very often as an excavation for what was motivating them. >> why did the democrats win? was it because republicans stayed home and democrats were energized or a combination? john: i think it was a combination. i think the largest factor in terms of voter interest come and i mentioned this in the book, was the state of the economy.
certainly, the decision by president ford to pardon former president nixon which occurred after -- a month after he became president, that was a devastating blow. -- blow to the republicans. i mentioned that jimmy blanchard who was running in michigan and later becomes aboutor heard the story the pardon and immediately began to yell, we are going to win, we are going to win. when you look back at where the public was and what the public mood was in late october and early november of 1974, be it now had faded and watergate had faded. the overwhelming issue was the economy. president ford, until his
death, defended the pardon. was it the right decision historically? john: i am not sure i am in a position to say. there were continuing issues that i talk about in the book. continuing concerns that a deal had been made and to their work efforts made in the judiciary committee early in the congress in 1975 to further investigate whether or not the chief of haig, had goner to the president and offered a deal to president nixon that he would resign and president ford would pardon him. that was never really proven. there were a number of people who made that argument. there were some members of the felt it was4 who important to put the issue behind us and move on with the issues that were before the country. >> our guest is john lawrence. he is the other of a new book
coming out in march titled, "the '74."of patricia, your next, in milwaukee. patricia: good afternoon. , so ifa long question you bear with me. are the ultra-elite writing our laws and if so, are we looking at a future of oligarchy controlling in our decisions of laws and oversights, placing party before country? the reason i ask that is because and thet of wealth social responsibility is. for example, in 1977, 60% of the income was in control of the ultra-wealthy. now, it is even higher.
are we looking at a partisan party for the future? i know there is always hope in things as far as getting this country back on track and operating as a democracy. what are your thoughts, sir? you, patricia. that is a big topic. john: tricia, i will tell you that i am often asked what do you consider to be the most serious problems -- patricia, i am often asked what do you consider to be the most searched problems in politics. the one that bothers me most is the one you identify, and that is the role of money in politics. issues are other solvable. it may not be solvable in the timeframe you or i would write. these are issues that the political process should be capable of addressing and historically has been able to address often on a bipartisan
basis. with the decisions of the supreme court, however, and citizens united in the mccutchen case and others, the role that money has been allowed to play in politics has a danger of overwhelming the system. some of the other subjects i mention, because they are supreme court decisions, it is hard for congress to gain control of the situation in congress cannot simply pass a citizensoverturns the united case. it cannot simply pass a law that imposes restrictions on spending. even if it were to establish a public financing system, which many people would like to see, or a disclosure system which the house of representatives had passed when the democrats were in the majority, that does not independent other expenditures which are vastly more in most cases than the
money the members have to go out and raise. i think that presents the most serious challenge. i think you saw some of that influence played out most , wherey in this tax bill over 80% of the benefit will go to the top 1% of the country. that is pretty hard to square with democratic government, even if you believe it has a similar effect. it is not consistent with democratic governing. we are going to have to, as a country, figure out some way to figure a constitutional amendment that authorizes congress to legislatively address the issue or have -- has a constitutional amendment. if you have hundreds of dollars in undisclosed money going into senate races to help and hurt a candidate, i think that is
extremely disruptive of the , and itic system presents the most dire danger to the future of democracy. >> lets get to two quick points. the ftc was created in the wake of watergate and watergate and campaigns -- of watergate and in campaigns. was created that it would both regulate elections and money and establish restrictions on how much money could be spent on elections. but the restrictions were thrown out by the supreme court within only a year. only a couple years after they enacted -- they were enacted. you had operational restrictions in place in terms of disclosure and responsibility for how campaigns are organized.
the restrictions on spending were thrown out. envisioned athave independenthow expenditures would have exploded. and the ftc itself is not affecting institution. its own members would admit to that. -- one isu really extremely hard-pressed to make an argument that there is an effective mechanism for either regulating or even disclosing the world of special interest money in politics. it is not just corporate money. there is lot of other money. there is high-tech money and labor money. have to be extraordinarily naive to believe
that much money can flow into the system and not distort the operation. >> which we saw in the citizens united case. the other point is the makeup of the house and senate generally in 1984, how did -- 1974, how did it change in 1975? john: the senate picked up 49 seats. the democrats had what many people assumed to be at that point a vetoproof majority. one of the stories i tell in the book, which is very significant in explaining the history of that era, was that there was a great deal of frustration against the leadership of the congress a cause were not able to overturn resident for's veto. there was expectation -- president ford's veto. there was expectation and it was not as overwhelming, but resident ford vetoed measures
that were high on democratic priority list as far as legislation. when he came to veto override, they failed. the reason was for organizational purposes that democrats had to 92 seats, more than you need for override, but the party was still heavily composed of southern conservatives who rarely voted with the democratic party on policy grounds. many of the chairman's work removed and a number left voluntarily in the 1970 six term. they voted 70% to 80% of the time with republicans. -- 1976 term. to 80% of the time with republicans. they were in the majority 21994. toy were there because --
1994 pier 1's they started to --.est the seats -- 1994. they started to contest the seats and it changed significantly. you would argue that partisan lines formed much more dramatically, partly because you had ideological realignment but also because the numbers were narrowed. there wasn't just a presumption of democratic control. that dramatically changes the operations for the congress. >> the book comes out in march or john lawrence is our guest. john is joining us on the phone from san francisco. good afternoon. >> i was thinking about the parallels that people pointed out between russia gate and watergate, interestingly, one of these similarities is the dnc is
a central player in the watergate. we had a break that was investigated by the police and watergate, but the dnc with the .ussian was allegedly hacked the intelligence report that came out a year ago pointed out clearly that they were highly confident, which meant they were not actually certain that there was no certainty to the intelligence findings. i find it interesting that people equate the two, when on the one hand you had people that were caught red-handed in police therts and on the other, server the dnc had was never .ven turned over to the fbi they had a third-party do it. you actually have no proof of a con in the russia story, but yet
in watergate, you had a clear crime. i am wondering how closely you followed it and i would like to hear your thoughts on my comment. thank you. john: well, john, it is a little early in the russia probe to determine exactly what the parallels with watergate might or might be -- might or might not be. with watergate, people were caught red-handed. they were caught in the dnc having broken into secure facilities. they were quickly able to be tied back to the president's reelection committee and it spun out of control from there. , we really of russia just don't know the answers. one of the concerns that is
raised is that much of what actually occurred tracing back the money and the organizational controls to the white house, was uncovered by the special prosecutor and of course president electio nixon fired h. that helped develop the bipartisan support for the escalation of the watergate investigation. i think that is one of the reasons people are so concerned of the continuing speculation that president trump might take that kind of action in the case of the special prosecutors m nueller. .n seeing how it --mueller i am seeing how it is playing out. i think we need to allow that to play itself out. >> the new movie out the post
looking at the pentagon papers and the role the "washington played in 1971, its role in 1972 investigating what happened in june 1972, historically, is it overplayed or was its role significant? john: it was very significant because they had access to a leaker who was able to give them money, the so-called "deep throat," who was able to push in certain directions at key times when it may have been difficult for woodward or ernestine or the other report -- bernstein or the other reporters theree gone themselves. it was courageous of the "washington post" to do that. you are taking on the leadership
of the country with enormous implications. i am not sure that anyone at the outset realized watergate was going to be the resignation of the presen president. the role of the press was absolutely critical. .> let's go to oregon next jack, you are on with jack lawrence. jack: good morning, mr. lawrence period and delighted to see you just did -- good morning, mr. lawrence. i am delighted to see you just and one of the big issues i worked on was the amendment of the freedom of information act. the freedom of information act of that period changed government significantly. it was one of the great
disclosure things. nowadays, we hear hardly anything at all of the freedom of information act, and the most aggressive users appear to be watchers, which is a right wing, radical option. >> jet, what were you doing in washington, d.c. at the time? : i was a spokesperson and my job was to work on the freedom of information act. from the barack your see, you can see the attention -- from the bureaucracy, you can see the attention drawn to the papers of one of the great deficiencies is they make -- did not make themselves subject to the freedom of information act.
that is old history but still intense. thank you, very much. i will buy your book. >> i think you touch on a key issue that was one of the most ,entral focuses of reformers the issue of openness in government. a lot of people do not realize that as late as the early 1970's, the federal government operated in the dark. meetings,committee
even operations of the house floor were not televised. they were not subjected to any broadcast. and committees did not produce reports, material about the legislation. all of the information was held by the floor.ee chairman all the information was held very tightly by the committee chairman. even the votes in committee and one of the arguments made was that we need to hold people .ccountable there were steps taken from 1973 to 1975 to open the congress up to allow television to come in
-- allow c-span to come in which did not happen later in the 1970's, their were arguments this was a bad idea. they said people would play to the camera and make it more theatrical and less legislative. that may occur to some extent. certainly, some people learned how to use the coverage, both to promote themselves and to use more liberalized rules to enforce full on controversial issues for political reasons rather than substantive legislative reasons. we talk about those as unintended consequences of reform. i also think it is important to note there is a bit of a revisionism which looks back and says we are able to do things when everyone was in broadcast and publicized. the example that is often use is
the civil rights act of 1964, where a lot of republicans, moderates, and liberals were voting for key legislation in voting for key legislation in subcommittees and in committees. votes that would have been difficult for them to have cast if their votes were recorded and if the debates were being televised. people say, if that happens today those types of agreements could not take place and the nature of the legislative process would change. as with virtually everything you do, i have found in congress and maybe in life, there are always unintended consequences that come with the intended reforms. >> in march of 79, c-span2 came on air. next in mark. mark: thank you. i really appreciate this.
i appreciate those who started c-span. there are some good things to come out of corporate america. c-span is one of them. i am a prospective author and am working on a book. i am looking at some of the things that have been happening. a few things since the iran and afghan wars and the patriot act, it is a bad thing. this is not about me, but it is about vets who are going through morale problems. i think there is a gray area that needs to be ironed out. i will get to the question.
i was watching a book and it seems like we are in another grapes of wrath. she mentioned and i took a youtube video that rome was innate quality they had great military. we are at .89. we are doing badly. we have debt. i believe we are headed downward, not upward. president trump mentioned that he wants to get us over 3% growth. according to some, we will be facing strong headwinds. that is what the economist said. he sounded like he knew what he was talking about. >> i am going to stop you there because we only have a few things left. thank you very much or the phone call from pennsylvania.
john: some of the concerns you have raised certainly were very evident during the debate on the recent tax bill. not only the role of special interest money, but to what extent the kind of stimulative effect that adding at least a trillion and a half dollars to the debt would generate. they did not get a sufficient airing. you did not have economists called before congress to give their analysis. they were not the -- the regular order was not followed in terms of markup's and hearings and floor debate. people were being asked to vote
on very expensive legislation that they had never seen. that would have to medic impact on almost every aspect of our national economy. for whatever reason this is occurring, i would tend to agree. this is a very dangerous way to do legislation. i would contrast it to the kinds of reforms that were initiated with the class of 1974 as i talk about in the book, where they were going in exactly the reverse process. they wanted more hearings, they wanted more testimony on the record, they wanted to offer amendments on the floor. at one point, when some of the older leadership in the democratic caucus in 1976, they said it has gone too far. some of the republicans were using amendments to make us look really bad. we have to rollback the number of amendments that can be used. george miller from california got up and said, if that is the price of democracy, and someday
we will be in the minority and we won't want our amend its restricted. i reflect what we saw whether it was the amend for the affordable care act or the tax bill with the kind of open and more accountable government that reformers in 19 74 insisted upon. >> you spent nearly four decades working on capitol hill and also for pelosi. jack, you get the last call for providence, rhode island. if you could be brief, please. jack: the question i have is, you have the scandals and it is always the republican administration. reagan was ultimately cleared. why are you laughing? the point i want to make is you
take a look at all the scandals take a look at all the scandals and there is never a democratic administration, and they were all super clean and super honest. he actually killed a woman. honest. you look at ted kennedy. he killed a woman and got away with it. he actually killed a woman. >> let me just jump in on one point. bill clinton is a democrat who was impeached. would you put him in the same category? jack: he was impeached but ultimately cleared. for the crimes he committed, he should be in a prison cell right now. john: i would be the last person >> jack, thank you for the call. to suggest one party or the other came into government or operated a government without i would agree. any faults. i would point to president johnson, who probably had a reputable presidency.
if we are going to see an improvement from the regard that the american people have for politics and for people who are engaged in our political system is to try to move beyond this scandal focus and beyond the type of partisanship and try to re-create a sense that we are all in this together and that nobody is going to get everything they want, but you have to have a process that has integrity. have to have a process that has integrity. you have to have a process that is willing to subject major policy questions to debate and that is the way you build public to re-examination and to change. confidence. you have an open, accountable process where you try to move special interest out to the maximum extent you can. that is the real challenge and
that is the real challenge and desperate need. we need a, if you go, class of 1974. we need people to come in with realism and confidence that you can rebuild a system that the american people will agree with. >> in researching this book, you how many did you interview? john: over 40. >> the book is called the class of '74. thank you for being with us. >> you are watching the american association gathering and northwest washington, d.c. up next, a panel will begin . >> they will try to bring eric in. we are delighted to